On my country road drives to and from St. Benedict Center, I often listen to an audiobook or podcast, but on my way home from an oblate weekend of beautiful sunrises and special monk moments, listening to some Carrie Newcomer music called to my spirit. I cued up Carrie Newcomer on my iPhone.
“The Music Will Play On” caught my eye. Sweet memories of meeting Parker Palmer, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, and Carrie Newcomer, one of my favorite musicians, at a 2019 Growing Edge retreat flooded my memories. Parker shared that he wanted to learn how to write a song, specifically about his own mortality. He asked Carrie to help him with some song-writing tips.
Parker writes, “I messed with metaphors, and began thinking about living and dying as part of what Thomas Merton, in a classic meditation, called “the general dance.” I’ve always loved dancing, so the metaphor felt just right. One morning, I woke up with a line running through my mind— “If I could, I’d dance this way forever”—and I knew I had the start of a song.”
It was such a special experience to witness the first performance of their song on retreat and to sing it along with them (saved in my personal video archives.) Here is a beautifully produced video of “The Music Will Play On” with lyrics:
No one knows for certain when their time will come, But life does not go silent once our dancing’s done. These harmonies will always call from beyond the years, The heavens dance forever to the music of the spheres.
If I could, I’d dance this way forever, But some soon day my dancing here will end. The music will play on, then one day I’ll be gone. I’ll dance into the darkness as new life dances in. Into the holy darkness where new life begins.
© 2020 by Carrie Newcomer and Parker J. Palmer ©2020 Carrie Newcomer Music (BMI), Administered by BMG Chrysalis
Indeed, our days are finite. We are inevitably “heading home to the music’s source.” As St. Benedict advises, “Keep death daily before your eyes.” Perhaps this sounds morbid, but this message encourages me to live each moment with wonder and gratitude.
“Our eyes are opened to that surprise character of the world around us the moment we wake up from taking things for granted… Surprise is the beginning of gratefulness.”Brother David Steindl-Rast
These thoughts are with me as I turn onto a country road I haven’t driven in some time. The magic of technology cues up the next song, one I was unfamiliar with. The style of the song reminds me of Nanci Griffith, a folk singer I have adored since the 1990s. I want to hear more from this new-to-me artist. I pull over to the side of the road, turning on my hazard lights in case there may be another car traveling (there hardly ever is), and snap some photos of an abandoned farmhouse. I search for more songs by this sweet-sounding folk singer-songwriter, Antje Duvekot.
And then comes the sweet spot. Filled with gratitude for the moment, this song reminds me why I live my life with wonder, open to holy surprises.
Once you stood below a mountain / Now you find yourself surprised / This is the sweet spot of your life
‘Cause this new view compares to nothing / Gone the hardship of your climb/This is the sweet spot of your life. So you must hold these days like treasures in a jewel box in your heart. This is the sweet spot of your life / For you know well they are most precious / Into an old tree you must carve them. This is the sweet spot of your life.
I continue on my journey home, celebrating the synchronicity of sauntering a country road, the sweet spot of my life, while listening to the holy surprise of just the right song at the right time.
At home, captured by memories and this new song, I find the live video of Parker debuting “The Music Will Play On,” and read through my reflections from the Growing Edge retreat. We were asked to consider this question:
What makes you feel most alive? Are you getting enough of this in your life?
I wrote, “I feel alive when I have the time to wander, to saunter down a country road or a walking path, to look at details and various perspectives, to see things differently, anew, with wonder. To take photos, to discover something of beauty, to be surprised, makes me feel the most alive—to not have to watch the clock, to just spend time being and being aware.”
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”Howard Thurman
I am filled with gratitude for synchronicity,
time to wander and wonder,
the right song at the right time,
artists who inspire,
for Parker and Carrie,
the wisdom of St. Benedict,
the community of monks just a few hours north of home,
country roads, cornfields, old houses and barns.
This is the sweet spot of my life.
At the Growing Edge Retreat with Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer, October 2019
More on WONDER, my 2023 Word of the Year HERE.